Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 5, 1970
NUMBER 26, PAGE 4-5a


John Collins

"The only legitimate defense of truth is argument; and if our opposers rely upon slanders, reproaches, and anathemas, we must rely upon the records of truth, and that reason which is the strength of men." (Millennial Harbinger, Volume II, number I, January 3, 1834)

The above quotation from the pen of Alexander Campbell is as applicable today as it was almost one hundred and sixty five years ago. In fact, it has been relevant from the dawn of mankind.

"Argument" defined is: "Reasoning designed to prove or disprove a proposition.- (RDGED) Therefore, we aren't talking about an angry quarrel, but rather a reasoned discussion concerning a particular problem or proposition.

When we're discussing religious problems with others, the only "legitimate defense" we may present is argument; that is, a reasoned appeal to "truth," which is the word of God (John 17:17). Even if our opponents use slander, sarcasm, ridicule, curses or any such like, we must use only "the records of truth." Reason is indeed "the strength of men.

No Bible student should be afraid cf such discussions.

A Bible teacher strives to make his lessons clear and applicable. However, occasionally someone may either disagree or not understand his point. If this is brought to his attention, he should desire to hear the person out, then discuss the issue. He should never consider this a personal attack to his pride or integrity. Even if this is the case, he must rise above such petty attitudes and discuss the issue only from the standpoint of truth. Healthy discussion is good for a class.

The purpose of preaching, as well as teaching, is to present the truth. If a preacher is challenged, he accepts it only if it's based on truth. If he is the challenger, he must also base his arguments only the Word of God. To act any other way will lead to error and eventually sin.

You may read something in this magazine or another with which you disagree. First, make absolutely sure your disagreement is based on the Bible and then, if you feel the need, discuss it with the author, either in person or in writing.

In personal conversations or any other situation not already mentioned, the same principles and ideas apply.

We are all free moral agents, with minds of our own. Not one of us will agree with another on everything. Truth flourishes in free and open discussion, but it is stifled and often covered when we close our minds to any new or different approach to problems. Never be afraid of arguments.

Many people may fear discussion because they're afraid they can't defend their position by answering every argument. They fear loss of face or embarrassment. This is immaturity and/or conceit. Mature Christians are above this. The important thing isn't who "wins" the argument, but that truth triumphs.

If our position is so weak that the slightest breeze of opposition will cause it to fall, we should examine again the ground upon which we stand: this time very closely.

The following are some guide lines that are helpful in argumentation.

I. Make sure, beyond a shadow of doubt, that the Bible is the standard used in the discussion. To use another authority in a religious discussion is futile. An exception to this is to use a person's own doctrinal books, such as the Book of Mormon, to show it contradicts itself and/or the Bible. Once this is established, you must turn to the Bible in order to continue your discussion.

2. Make sure that you are both talking about the same thing. Many arguments have been caused because the opponents didn't understand what each was talking about. Agree on a definition of terms at once.

3. Perhaps the hardest suggestion is to be open-minded. The temptation is great to look only for ways to defend one's position rather than seeking the truth.

4. Listen to your opponent's statements. Don't be thinking only of what you're going to say next while he's talking.

5. Write down his points. This helps clarify his position in your mind.

6. Don't be afraid you can't answer each argument presented.

7. After the discussion let the arguments mellow in your mind; that is, meditate. This will help clarify problems and positions.

8. If you are wrong, admit it. If your opponent admits error don't gloat, rather be humble.

9. Don't be angry with a person just because he disagrees with you. Also, don't accuse him of improper motives unless you have evidence to support your claim. The only time you would use this evidence would be when the motives have a bearing on the arguments. Just to make an off-handed remark about your opponent simply because he is your disputer is not Christ like and is beneath the character of a child of God.

10. Have the courage to avoid meaningless harangues. This was Paul's warning to Timothy in I Timothy 4:20-21. Don't be intimidated to cast pearls to swine.

These suggestions will not help to solve every problem. You may still walk away convinced you're right and he may do the same. Nevertheless, continue to rely on the truth and nothing more. To quote Mr. Campbell again, from the same article, "Reason, we repeat, is the strength and dignity of man. He who has to employ another weapon in his own defense, degrades himself as well as his cause."

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